I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to enjoy this; but I did. I’m never sure whether or not it’s appropriate to make historical dramas about people who lived relatively recently, some of whose close relatives and friends may still be living and may be uncomfortable about it. Nicholas and Emma Soames, who were amongst the members of the Churchill family portrayed in the programme, are certainly both still alive and well. However, it was all done fairly tastefully – unlike, for example, The Iron Lady. Also, I wasn’t sure why they’d decided to throw a fictional character, a nurse who cared for Churchill after he suffered a stroke, in amongst all the real characters: that’s something that can work very well if the fictional character is the main character, but less so when the focus is supposed to be on real life events. I’m still not sure why the nurse was there, but I was very impressed by Romola Garai’s extremely authentic-sounding Yorkshire accent!
I thought that the whole thing was very well-written and well-acted. And it raised a lot of interesting questions. Well, many of them are age-old questions, so maybe it’d be more accurate to say that it acted as a reminder of them! If a leader of a nation is severely incapacitated, is it appropriate for that information to be kept secret? Would today’s press agree to keeping something like that a secret, as those press barons – Beaverbrook et al – shown in this programme did? When should someone, in any role, accept that enough is enough and it’s time for them to step down? It’s interesting how, as life expectancy has increased and many people enjoy a full and active life for far longer than has ever been the case previously, political leaders have got younger. It would seem very strange now for someone of nearly 80 to be Prime Minister. And how does having a high-flying job, whether it’s in politics or any other walk of life, impact on someone’s partner and children, if they’re lucky enough to have them? There are no easy answers to any of these questions, but there’s a lot to think about in connection with all of them.
Churchill wasn’t expected to make a full recovery from this stroke. But he did. And he carried on as Prime Minister for another two years. After everything he’d done for the country already. Is he the Greatest Briton of all time? (I mean in terms of proper consideration, not those ridiculously stupid polls which always have Oliver Cromwell and Diana, Princess of Wales in the top 5.) Very possibly. Certainly one of the top few. Bloody good historian, as well! What strength of personality to carry on after a near-fatal illness, and at an age at which most people have long since retired. I wasn’t sure that this programme would do him justice, but I do think it did. Well done, ITV. Nice one.